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IMMODERATE GREATNESS

WHY CIVILIZATIONS FAIL

Sound, sophisticated cultural analysis sure to spark a debate.

Civilization, for all its wonders and advantages, is destined to collapse due to its nature, writes Ophuls in this meticulously argued treatise.

Using the fall of Roman civilization as both example and metaphor—the title is part of a quote from Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776)—Ophuls discusses the physical and human limitations inherent to any society. He identifies four basic biophysical factors and two human factors as being the deciding variables in determining when a civilization passes its peak and enters its decline; he explains how and why these factors not only lead to a civilization’s collapse, but how the nature of these factors works against developing viable solutions to the problems they present. Ophuls takes a multidisciplinary approach to constructing his arguments, drawing on concepts and copious sources from the sciences, political theory, historical research and literature to synthesize an argument that pleads for humanity to take a long view toward the use and preservation of resources. The writing is clear and succinct in this politico-historical analysis, and the logic of Ophuls’ arguments is patiently built, with careful thought and copious citations offered as support. However, not every point in Ophuls’ sophisticated theoretical structure is without a weakness. His arguments on culture and its apparent limitations depend too closely on a monocultural viewpoint, and one chapter displays a curious misunderstanding of certain aspects of the scientific method and its attendant viewpoints. Furthermore, although technology is discussed as a cultural force, scant attention is given to the role of transformative technologies—the telephone, TV and the Internet, for example—in how a culture develops and changes. Also, some readers may take issue with the inherent moral and political conservatism Ophuls displays in his discussions of moral decay and human limitation. Despite these flaws, as well as the lack of a prescriptive conclusion, Ophuls’ clear writing, thorough research and elegant logic make his treatise a thoughtful, discussion-provoking work.

Sound, sophisticated cultural analysis sure to spark a debate.

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1479243143

Page Count: 116

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2013

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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